May 4 – 8 is Teacher Appreciation Week and Hiram College is proud to recognize the sustained and dedicated efforts of our faculty to inspire and drive student success. Every day this week, the College will feature a different faculty member from each school.
Today, read more about Xinlu Yu, Ph.D., an associate professor of communication in the College’s Scarborough School of Business & Communication.
WHY DID YOU BECOME AN EDUCATOR?
I was born into a teacher’s family on my mother’s side. My grandfather was a university math professor and my mother and many of my uncles and aunts were university professors and grade-school teachers. Since I grew up surrounded by so many who all loved teaching, it was only natural that being a teacher became a childhood dream of mine.
My husband is originally from Columbus, both of us graduated from Ohio University, and we were both ready to move back to Ohio after living in Florida for seven years. When I had my campus interview, I was immediately drawn to the close-knit community. I felt very much at home here.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY MOST ABOUT TEACHING?
The thrill of intellectual engagement with young people is incalculable, enriching and magical. But, some of my best moments as a teacher have come outside of the classroom. I really enjoy when I get an email or text from a student referring me to something they read that reminds them of course material or hear from a former student who tells me how much a course of mine helped them on their educational or career path. Those moments make me feel like I am not only a teacher, but a mentor as well.
TELL US ABOUT SOMEONE WHO HAS INFLUENCED YOU AS A TEACHER.
Linda Rea, who was the chair of the Communication Department for more than 40 years. Unfortunately, Linda suffered a severe brain injury in a car accident shortly after her retirement in 2009 and passed away in 2015. I remember there was a saying posted on Linda’s old office door that said, simply: humankind, and these words exemplify how Linda lived her life. She set a high standard of excellence for herself as well as for everyone around her. Linda not only taught me how to be a better teacher, but also a better human being. I know that educators can make a difference, and Linda certainly made a difference in my life.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE YOUR STUDENTS ACCOMPLISH DURING THEIR TIME AT HIRAM AND BEYOND?
In my opinion, developing applicable skills such as written and oral communication and critical thinking and analysis is of equal or greater importance than the mastery of the course material and related skills. It does not matter how knowledgeable a student is if they cannot communicate their ideas effectively or if the student cannot think critically about what they know and apply that knowledge to new situations. To foster those skills, I emphasize teacher-student communication, not only inside the classroom, but outside the classroom. I also encourage student-student interaction by including small group discussions and group projects. My lectures and assignments (even exams) have a heavy focus on application. I frequently provide the students with examples to help them comprehend various theories and concepts. In order to be successful in my classes, the students cannot simply memorize or regurgitate the information they receive without being able to critically analyze as well as apply what they learn.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR FAVORITE MEMORY DURING YOUR TEACHING CAREER.
One of my favorite memories is not a specific moment, rather it’s the time I have spent with colleagues like Gail Ambuske, Mary Ann Brockett and Linda Rea. Over the years, they not only become my mentors, but also my close friends and true inspirations.
Another one of my favorite memories is my close relationships with many international students. When I first came to Hiram, there were 70-80 international students from more than 20 countries. There was a group of them I became very close to. They often came over to my house for dinner and I took them to run errands. Even though all of them graduated many years ago, we keep in touch with each other, which can be difficult sometimes because I choose not to use any form of social media popular in the U.S. When they come back to visit, my home always becomes the gathering place for them, just as we used to do many years ago.
TALK ABOUT THE STUDY ABROAD COURSES YOU HAVE LED.
Before Gail Ambuske, professor emerita of communication and management, retired in 2017, we led a study abroad trip to China five different times. The course, China: Tradition and Change, examines the impact of transformational change on China and its people. It also explores the underlying traditions of China and their relevance to the changes occurring in Chinese society. Over the years, we perfected the trip and added many new elements such as home stays, dorm stays, school visits, visits to China Radio International, where I used to work, and China Global Television Network, which is a part of China Central Television. For the dorm stays, we worked together with the Zhejiang Vocational Academy of Art and we visited various students’ organizations and attended several events the college held. The Chinese students also gave us a tour of a reconstructed historic district in the city and introduced us to different forms of fork art and local customs and traditions. At night, the Chinese students and the Hiram students were given free time to hang out with each other. The college hosted a big party for us at which both groups of students performed on the stage. Since many of the students at this Chinese college were future professional performing artists, they were not short of talent. Many of our students mentioned that the dorm stay was one of their favorite activities during the trip because they were able to have more in-depth contact with their peers. The trip became one of the most popular, as well as one of the most affordable trips at Hiram because Gail and I were able to work together without the help of a travel agency to plan it. Even though I made most of the arrangements for the trip, the preparation and the leading of the trip was truly a team effort. The fact we were able to work so well together and our complete trust in each other helped create a great group dynamic among the students, and many of them considered the trip a life-changing experience and wanted to go back to visit.